Navigating Wedding Planning Without Parents

Having parents absent from a wedding can be tough to navigate whether it's due to illness, distance, strained relationships, or even death. So, here are all the people and planning tools that can lend a helping hand.

By Jennifer Prince

Plan A Wedding Without Your Parents
Photo by Pexels

The First Look ✨

  • Consider honoring missing parents on your big day by placing a photo or having someone sing their favorite song during the ceremony.
  • Above all, take care of yourself and allow yourself to feel sad or grieve during the wedding planning process.

If there’s one time in your life when you want to be surrounded by your loved ones, it’s your wedding day. And as you ask siblings and college BFFs to be in your bridal party and assign tasks to your family members, one thing is on your mind: One or both of your parents can’t attend.

Whether due to their passing, distance, illness, or strained family relationships, you’re wondering how you’ll have a wedding without your mom or dad. From picking out your wedding dress to being walked down the aisle on your wedding day, it’s evident that their presence will be missed, and Zola has the DIY wedding tools you need to go it alone. Here’s how.

6 FAQs About Planning Without a Parent

Having an online community like Zola’s can make couples feel less alone. Whether you’re seeking catering advice or simply need an opinion on a color palette, others are ready to weigh in with their suggestions. Having a community of users in the same phase of life waiting to cheer others on gives Zola’s users a healthy support system. Here are some of the topics couples have asked in the wedding forum.

1. How to Ask a Non-Parent to Walk You Down the Aisle

If the father of the bride isn’t available on the wedding day, it’s perfectly appropriate to ask someone else to take that spot. Often a mother, older brother, son, or favorite uncle will perform the task. However, you can also feel free to get creative. Maybe your best friend or partner’s parents will do it. Even Meghan Markle had her future father-in-law walk her down the aisle — you certainly can, too. Absolutely anyone can walk with you down the aisle, so when it comes to asking, be sure to express what it would mean to have the beside you.

2. How to Honor Beloved Parents at Your Wedding

There are a whole host of ideas on how to memorialize lost loved ones on the special day, but even if your parent hasn’t passed, you can still honor them. Consider lighting a candle, reserving a seat for them in the front row, or acknowledging them in the program. One of our forum users suggested showing a slideshow during the traditional father/daughter dance to remember dad. Another added that they would use their gallery page as an “in memoriam” section on their wedding website.

It’s also important to note that your acknowledgment doesn’t have to be public, depending on the circumstances. Doing something private, such as putting dad’s photo into a pocket or including mom’s favorite flower in your wedding bouquet, can also have meaning. Likewise, if they had a favorite song or poem, include it in your wedding ceremony.

3. How to Pick Out a Dress Without a Mother

Going with your mom to choose a wedding dress is symbolic and can often be difficult for those whose mothers have passed. It’s good to get a second opinion, so bring in some of your favorite people or mentors to help. Your sister or a bridesmaid would be honored, but also think outside of your wedding party. Consider asking your aunt or future mother-in-law instead. If your mom is still alive but can’t attend, she can join via FaceTime.

4. How to Use Your Community to Get Involved

From grandparents and older siblings to aunts and uncles, there are probably a few folks you look up to in your family. Chances are they’d love to step in where needed. Feel free to ask for their advice and delegate jobs based on their strengths. Your ultra-organized cousin may thrive on attending your vendor appointments with you.

5. How to Honor Your Partner’s Parents

Having parents present is probably also important to your partner, so be sensitive to their family. Possibly involve their siblings in ways you hadn’t considered before if they’ve lost a parent. For example, some of our Zola forum users suggested having them do readings or participate in the unity ceremony. Even if your partner hasn’t mentioned the impact of their parent’s absence to you, being proactive can help stave off unexpected emotions on the wedding day.

6. How to Take Care of Yourself if You Are Missing a Loved One

Getting married is exciting, yet there can also be stress leading up to the big day, especially if you lack a parent. Give yourself grace and permission to pause as needed. Also, have frank conversations about your feelings with your partner and wedding planner. If you’re having an off day, ask someone to come with you to look at wedding venues or meet with the photographer.

Also, lean on others during this time. Your siblings and other family members also feel the pain of the situation, so communicate your feelings to them. Feeling unexpected emotions is ok, and acknowledging them while pressing on can be healing. Plus, prioritizing your mental health will ultimately help your wedding day run more smoothly.

How Zola’s Tools Can Help

When planning your wedding, it’s important to have help, and Zola gets it. When your parents are unable to step in with traditional roles, use Zola’s tools to get the job done.

Planning and Implementing Your Budget

You and your partner need to chat about who is paying for the wedding. Although, you can ask grandparents, friends, or other family members to help, chances are you may be footing a large portion of the bill. No matter who is responsible financially, the best way to stay on track is with the wedding budget planner. Learn how to set your wedding budget, and also use the tool to keep current with vendor payments. There will be no budgetary surprises when you use this planner.

Getting Advice When You Need It

Parents are great for weighing in when you need an opinion, and you probably have others who want to weigh in with advice. Your aunt may be a good source of information, or maybe one of your brunch friends got married recently. However, when you need to consult someone who’s also in the middle of wedding planning, consult the wedding community. Either ask questions so that they can be answered in the forum, or browse previous topics to find different points of view. The community is also the perfect place to vent your frustrations, although you could always talk to your therapist or wedding planner.

Performing Wedding Day Tasks

If your mom isn’t available to help you put on your wedding gown, ask a sister, aunt, or lifelong friend to help out instead. Another big part of the day is a first look with your father, but you can do one with your siblings or bridesmaids instead. When dad is missing to accompany you down the aisle, it’s okay to have a mentor or another parental figure take over the job. Zola’s Expert Advice articles are also a fabulous resource when you need to find new takes on old traditions.

Finding Items for Your New Home

Perhaps your dad was a great cook or your mom always made the bedrooms feel cozy. When it comes to registry items, look to others for ideas where you’re lacking. Poll your cousin who went to culinary school who may suggest the Victorinox cutlery set you never knew you needed. Or your jet setting coworker may suggest a cruiseline gift card so you can save up for a fabulous trip. One perk of using Zola’s wedding registry is that you can find the perfect gifts to add to your gift list when you’re lacking for ideas.

Use Zola’s Free Online Wedding Planning Tools

Your big day is a once-in-a-lifetime event, and Zola has plenty of online aids to help you have the perfect wedding. Of course, these tools can’t replace meaningful people, but they can aid in making planning more manageable and keep you on track. Here are a few of the available tools.

  • Wedding Registry - It’s what Zola is known for! Not only can you easily register for what you need, but the registry system is also simple for guests to use.
  • Wedding Websites - You and your partner can build a beautiful website with Zola. Tell your love story, collect RSVPs, and communicate easily with your guests.
  • Expert Wedding Advice - Although Zola can’t accompany you to your wedding vendor meetings, you can consult the vast library of articles to help answer your planning questions.
  • Wedding Checklists - Know what to do when with wedding checklists. Not only do these lists have time breakdowns, but there are also specialized ones for various wedding types, such as destination weddings or Jewish events.
  • Zola Online Community - One of the best features is the vibrant online forum. Get advice from others, or use your expertise to help other couples during the planning process. P.S. You also have full permission to vent if needed!
  • Wedding Budget Tracker - Keep on track with finances, schedule payment reminders, and adjust your budget if necessary with Zola’s budget tracker.
  • Wedding App - Stay on top of things on the go. There’s no need to break out the computer to check the guest RSVP list with the intuitive Zola wedding app.
  • Wedding Guest List Manager and Contact Information - Easily collect and check RSVPs, keep track of meal choices, and learn the names of plus ones before your special day.

Zola: Making DIY Wedding Planning Easier

From planning a proposal to finding registry items for your home together, Zola is here to help. The online wedding planning tools are convenient and straightforward, and the forum community is supportive. So regardless of your needs leading up to the big day, Zola is here to help.

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